Enbridge sues Michigan over oil pipeline shutdown order

TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan (AP) - Enbridge filed a legal lawsuit against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday.
The Canadian company accused the state of exceeding its limits, arguing that Enbridge's Line 5 was under the sole regulatory responsibility of the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
"This is the latest attempt by the state of Michigan to disrupt the operation of this critical infrastructure by taking over the authority it does not have," the company said in a statement.
In her Nov. 13 order to stop oil flow within 180 days, Whitmer said Enbridge had violated a relief granted 67 years ago to operate a section of the pipeline along state-owned land below the Strait of Mackinac. Attorney General Dana Nessel sued a state court to enforce the Democratic governor's demand.
Enbridge filed his case in the US District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, underscoring his claim that the pipeline was a federal matter. It also filed a notice attempting to refer the state's action to federal court.
Vern Yu, president of the liquid pipeline company, said the state should "stop making policies about the energy demands and fears of consumers and businesses in the US and Canada who depend on Line 5".
Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said Enbridge's suit "brazenly defies the Michigan people and their right to protect the Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill."
"In short, Enbridge claims it can continue to pump oil down the Mackinac Straits indefinitely, which is a huge risk to our economy and way of life - and that the people of Michigan have no say in this matter," Brown said.
Line 5 carries approximately 87 million liters of oil and natural gas fluids daily between Superior, Wisconsin and Sarnia, Ontario, and crosses parts of northern Michigan and Wisconsin.
The underwater section under the strait is divided into two pipes. Enbridge says they are in solid shape and never leaked, while Whitmer claims they are prone to a catastrophic spillage.
Whether the state has the legal authority to close the pipeline is a long debated question.
In his notice of resignation, Whitmer's office stated that the relief was wrongly granted in 1953 and was in breach of the state's public trust obligation to protect the waters of the Great Lakes. A report from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said Enbridge failed to meet numerous safety standards.
Enbridge said in its lawsuit that Congress had given the Federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Agency "exclusive authority" over energy pipelines. The agency's regulations address corrosion, stress, and other safety concerns. Michigan's shutdown order violates the US Constitution by hindering international trade.
Despite demands that Line 5 pose no threat, in 2018 Enbridge reached an agreement with former Republican Governor Rick Snyder to run a new section of pipeline through a tunnel to be drilled below the lake floor.
The company applies for approval from the federal and state governments for the project, which is supported by industry and working groups.
"An irresponsible shutdown would not only affect the price of gas and propane and the raw materials for countless everyday products, it would also put a strain on the logistics required to move critical goods across our state and region," said John Dulmes, Executive Director of Michigan Chemistry Council said in support of Enbridge's lawsuit.
Environmental groups, local tribes and some tourism companies reject the tunnel and have pushed ahead with the closure of line 5.
"We urge the courts to oppose this irresponsible effort to rob Governor Whitmer and the state of Michigan of their authority to protect our Great Lakes and our way of life," said Mike Shriberg, regional director for the National Wildlife Federation.
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